In an evolving healthcare industry, prominent surgeons are choosing to pursue graduate business education—a trend that continues to grow nationally.
(Editor’s note: A version of this story first appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of Fox Focus, the school’s alumni magazine.)
It’s 4:30 a.m., and Alexander Vaccaro reaches for his alarm clock.
Soon after, he’s reading lectures and watching transcribed videos from the seat of a recumbent bike. The piece of exercise equipment doubles as Vaccaro’s classroom desk as he completes coursework during his daily workout.
An orthopaedic surgeon and spinal specialist, Vaccaro maintains a tightly organized schedule. He’s the Richard H. Rothman Chair of Orthopaedic Surgery at Jefferson University Hospitals and president of the Rothman Institute, an international leader in orthopaedic science, research, treatment, and technology. And he completed his Online Master’s of Business Administration through Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
Vaccaro estimated that he committed at least two hours daily to his Fox Online MBA. Often, it was more.
“I’m being honest when I say this: It’s one of the hardest and one of the most-rewarding things I’ve ever done,” said Vaccaro, who’s also a professor of neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery. “You know what you do for a living. Getting your MBA helps you figure out why you do what you do, and you’re able to do it better.”
Vaccaro is one in a growing number of accomplished medical professionals, with a slew of letters following their surnames, who supplemented their clinical educations with a business education at the Fox School.
The reason? As the landscape in American healthcare continues to evolve, medical professionals like Vaccaro are learning that one of the greatest issues in their field is a business-related one.
“I was brought up thinking about care for the individual. Now I have to care for the system that cares for the people,” Vaccaro said. “I almost think an MBA should be mandatory for clinicians. When you get into medicine, you need courses on how to run a program, and you need background skills in operations, marketing, law, ethics, and communication. Those in medicine who plan to lead need an MBA.”
Healthcare spending in the United States reached $3.3 trillion in 2016, or 17.9 percent of its gross domestic product. And that figure is expected to continue climbing. Physicians equipped to tackle the challenges of operating a medical facility, in relation to both patient treatment and business management, are in high demand.
According to a 2011 U.S. News & World Report study, hospitals run by trained physicians earned quality scores that were 25 percent stronger than hospitals run by management. Having a physician who is capable of balancing a budget and managing personnel “is more than valuable. It’s indispensable,” said Dr. Steven Szebenyi, the former chief medical officer and senior vice president of healthcare management with Health Partners Plans, a not-for-profit health insurance organization in the Philadelphia region.
Szebenyi, in his former role, oversaw all clinical aspects of Health Partners Plans, reporting to the company’s chief executive officer and senior team, managing a staff of nearly 200, and overseeing its budget, among other duties. The push for a business education among the nation’s top healthcare workers can influence hiring practices, Szebenyi said.
“I look for someone with more than clinical experience,” Szebenyi said. “I look for someone with administrative training, additional training, or both. That need is only going to continue to grow. With this shift from volume-driven healthcare to value-driven healthcare, you see more and more physicians taking more prominent roles and leadership positions.”
A gathering of more than 700 of the nation’s preeminent business and healthcare executives at the University of Miami’s “The Business of Healthcare: Bending the Cost Curve” conference in January 2014 concluded that the challenge of lowering overall costs while raising the quality of care remains. And in November 2014, Todd Kislak, who boasts a decade of healthcare management experience, told Bloomberg Businessweek that the issue boils down to “the coats vs. the suits. What you need is people who can wear both.”
Temple’s Fox School of Business is preparing physicians to do that. A number of high-ranking surgeons have completed the Fox Online MBA program, which combines technology, collaboration, and real-world experience, so professionals in any industry can balance the rigors of continued education, full-time employment, and family.
Like Vaccaro, Dr. Cataldo Doria earned his Online MBA at the Fox School.
For years, Doria, the director of the Jefferson Transplant Institute and the Division of Transplantation at Jefferson University Hospitals, said he had considered a graduate degree in business administration, before choosing Fox for its “top-notch reputation,” he said. “Medicine is changing so much and so fast, and unless you really understand the economics and the business of it, you’re going to be left behind,” said Doria, the Nicoletti Family Professor of Transplant Surgery.
Three other physicians who earned their Online MBAs from the Fox School have noted immediate gains professionally as a result of their recently attained business credentials.
When Dr. Vani Dandolu had elected to pursue her Online MBA, clinical colleagues said she had swayed “to the dark side,” said the chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of Nevada School of Medicine. Instead, Dandolu viewed the program as an opportunity to learn business-world language without having to give up her stake in academic medicine.
“I get more credibility, my opinions are taken more seriously and, really, I would not have been a serious candidate for my current position if not for my additional degrees,” said Dandolu, also the ObGyn residency program director and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Nevada. “I was very clear on what I wanted to get out of my MBA and I believe that focus is critical when you are pursuing any new venture.”
Philadelphia-area surgeons Dr. Aron Wahrman and Dr. Daniel Dempsey, who attained their Online MBAs at Fox, agree. As clinical assistant professor of surgery at Penn Medicine, Wahrman sees a benefit to giving the program’s top medical students and residents a taste of business education.
“I think traditional curriculum, which mainly focuses on scientific and clinical curriculum, does them a disservice,” said Wahrman, who earned his Fox Online MBA in 2011. “With everything that’s going on in healthcare, the patient is expecting quality and value, and an MBA gives you a broader perspective on topics pertaining to that. Moreover, you can’t just give (administrative duties) to people in healthcare who aren’t as vested in taking care of patients or in making decisions at the individual and community level. That’s why I think pursuing a Fox Online MBA was a good fit.”
Dempsey is professor of surgery, chief of gastrointestinal surgery, and assistant director of perioperative services at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to commencing his Fox Online MBA studies, he said he possessed a basic knowledge of a hospital’s business operations, but “by no means was I an expert.” He said he’s since been able to complete financial analyses on greater returns on how his hospital spends, and better understand profit loss and cash flow, as a result of his most-recent degree.
Like Dandolu and Wahrman, Dempsey said he faced vilification from his colleagues in medicine.
“The common reaction was, ‘What’re you doing that for? You’ve been doing aspects of administration for years,” he said.
And Dempsey’s reply?
“I have one foot in each camp now,” said Dempsey, who earned his Fox Online MBA in 2011. “Having an MBA, especially one from Fox, trains you to be a more-effective messenger between these two large arenas. Suddenly, you’re able to help non-clinical administrators understand a surgeon’s point of view, and you also are more able to help the clinicians understand how an administrator sees something.
“Overall, that business education facilitates greater communication between the two sides.”
The responses Dempsey received are somewhat commonplace. In a 2005 research paper written by Dr. Windsor Westbrook Sherrill, professor in public health sciences at Clemson University, students reported uncomfortable exchanges with doctors who saw them as “traitors” for having enrolled in a joint MD/MBA program. Sherrill, whose research has concentrated in medical education, identified a critical “gap in training,” when it comes to clinical leaders who lack business education.
“The real driver is the financial constraints of healthcare today,” she said. “In fee-for- service medicine, there wasn’t a push for cost efficiencies. Reimbursement services have changed. There was a time when you didn’t have to worry about cost. You’d be reimbursed no matter what you charged. It’s gotten more important in healthcare to be cost-conscious. There’s more regularity around quality and accountability measurement, from payers and policymakers.”
Dr. Maria Chandler, the president of the Association of MD/MBA Programs (AMMP), said nearly 70 dual-degree programs exist in the United States. One of them is housed at the Fox School, through which dual-degree students pursue the Fox Online MBA. The program, which can be completed in less than two years, employs a flipped-classroom model.
The program features what Fox has coined “a curriculum carousel,” which provides multiple entry points throughout the calendar year. Students can pursue the degree at their pace, and can register for one or up to three courses per semester. Each course is delivered one at a time over four weeks, and the program can be completed in as quickly as 20 months.
The program-opening residency features a leadership course, networking and team building opportunities, professional development workshops, and special events.
As Chandler sees it, the overlap between the two industries is “larger than people think,” and necessitates a foundational business education.
“I’ve seen surgeons without business training stand up in meetings, and say they need new equipment for one reason or another,” Chandler said. “And when they are asked, ‘How do you suggest we pay for that,’ the surgeon can’t make a business argument.
“Then, I’ve seen others who say, ‘If you double throughput through our department, the piece of equipment would pay for itself in X amount of months.’ Now, all of a sudden, the surgeon has the CEO’s ear and can get what he or she wants. And that’s just a small sampling of what a business education can do for a medical professional.”
A dual-degree program, according to Chandler, gives students the skills, vocabulary and applicable training to succeed in both arenas following attainment of their degrees. In her leadership position with AAMP, Chandler said she has come into contact with a wide array of scholars who were thankful for the joint education, executives who wished they’d had it, and a small subset of those who don’t see the value in it.
“I once met a surgeon who was in charge of a $6 billion budget and had absolutely no business training,” she said. “In what other industry would someone be tasked with managing a budget of that size and have no business training? That’s the current state of the healthcare industry.”
Vaccaro, the orthopaedic surgeon and Rothman Institute president, said he did not want to be left behind within his evolving field. Pursuing an Online MBA at Fox allowed him to supplement his medical know-how with the ability to, in his words, “speak the language” of the business community.”
“I’m a much-better leader today because of Fox’s program,” Vaccaro said. He earned an MBA, he said, “to run a healthcare system, to improve its quality, and to make it more accessible and affordable. We have to start to control the healthcare system, and that’s what a business education can do for someone like me.”
Learn more about the Fox Online MBA program.
I’m sitting in the middle of the dining area at the Temple University Main Campus location of honeygrow—the health-forward, fast-casual, customizable salad and stir-fry restaurant—strapped into a Google Daydream VR headset. In reality, I’m swiveling wildly and waving my arms like a lunatic. In virtual reality, I’m moving ingredients around—a cartoon chicken, an oinking pig, and a cheese wheel—to various shelves inside a walk-in refrigerator. It’s fun. I’m also learning quite a bit about food safety regulations.
This is one of the scenes in the VR experience honeygrow uses to onboard new employees. Created in collaboration with the Philadelphia-based experiential art shop Klip Collective, it’s the latest tech-savvy move from the company founded by CEO Justin Rosenberg, MBA ’09. When Rosenberg developed the business plan for honeygrow while studying at the Fox School, tech was an essential component, namely the automated kiosks that simplify the ordering process while creating a uniquely interactive experience for customers.
Honeygrow opened in 2012 and now has 23 locations in nine cities, including New York, Chicago, and Boston. Since honeygrow is constantly onboarding new employees, it wanted to develop an innovative, efficient way to teach newbies the ropes. Kyle Brown, honeygrow’s director of operations, estimates that about 100 people will take the VR training each year. He claims turnover has already dropped and employees are earning required training certifications at a significantly higher rate.
“Technology is not a silver bullet to stand out, but rather an operational enhancement to better streamline the experience for both guests and team members.” – Justin Rosenberg, founder and CEO of honeygrow
The first thing I see once jacked into the VR experience is Rosenberg welcoming me to honeygrow. Next I observe employees as they prepare menu items on the salad and noodle line. Then I’m thrown into the interactive walk-in exercise. I learn all about how raw pork and raw beef should not be stored together. I also witness an employee providing fantastic service to customers in a virtually crowded honeygrow dining room.
Virtual reality is a buzzing topic in the news, so using this technology in an inventive way has earned honeygrow attention from publications like Wired, The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur. In addition to optimizing new employee training and relations, it elevates the honeygrow brand by showing how much they value experimenting with new technology. And honeygrow’s success in virtual reality is raising the real bar—months after announcing its VR strategy, major companies like Kentucky Fried Chicken have jumped onboard to do the same.
“Technology is not a silver bullet to stand out, but rather an operational enhancement to better streamline the experience for both guests and team members,” explains Rosenberg. “It’s critical to be constantly searching for ways to thoughtfully and purposefully be better than our competition. And we love to figure out ways to be better than we were yesterday.”
Learn more about Fox School MBA programs.
When Ariell Johnson, BBA ’05, was a kid growing up in Baltimore in the 1980s she cut comics out of newspapers, glued them to construction paper, and tried to sell them.
Back then, there was no way of knowing she’d one day open a comic book shop, Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, in Philadelphia. Or that Ira Glass would interview her there for an episode of “This American Life.” Or that MacArthur Fellow Ta-Nehisi Coates and Civil Rights Movement icon and Congressman John Lewis—both of whom have recently been involved in comics, with the Black Panther series and March, respectively—would visit and stroll Amalgam’s shelves. But even as a kid, Johnson was a gifted entrepreneur and her family knew she was destined for something amazing.
“I always marched to my own drum and I was always business-minded,” recalls Johnson. “My mom would joke that she’d never have to worry about me being broke because I’m a hustler. I had a very crafty grandma who taught me how to knit and crochet and embroider. And anything I learned how to do, I’d try to make money from it. I would even make things out of Play-Doh and sell them. I’ve always been entrepreneurial.”
When Johnson moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University, she initially wanted to study dance. But her sister, an actuary, convinced her to major in accounting at the Fox School. After graduating in 2005, she briefly worked in retail and as a bookkeeper for a nonprofit and a local community newspaper. She considered becoming a certified public accountant, but the thrill was gone.
“I enjoy accounting,” she explains, “but I couldn’t do it all day, everyday. There’s a part of me that loves sitting and staring at spreadsheets, but I need a creative aspect to my work.”
Johnson, while a student at the Fox School, had the idea of opening a comic book shop. She’d fallen in love with comics after watching the X-Men cartoon in her youth—especially the character Storm—and she dove headfirst into Philly’s comic book scene. She became a regular at Fat Jacks Comicrypt. After scoring new books, she’d read them over hot chocolate at the nearby coffee shop, Crimson Moon.
“I loved nerding out in public,” she says, “and being at a coffee shop thumbing through a comic was really cool. When Crimson Moon closed, I had the idea for Amalgam. I didn’t have a place to go, so I thought it would be great if the comic book store were a coffee shop and a community space, too. That was the rough idea, but I was still in school then and not thinking about it too seriously. It was my pipedream.”
It took a terrible tragedy to push Johnson’s plan forward. When her mother died, it caused her to re-evaluate her life goals. She decided she needed to do something daring, something that would make her happy, and so she grabbed her dream and ran with it.
In December of 2015, Amalgam Comics & Coffeeshop opened its doors along the Frankford Arts Corridor in the Kensington neighborhood. The space is hip and fun, with exposed brick walls, high ceilings, industrial flourishes, colorful furniture, and thousands of comics. She knew it was wise to diversify, and so Amalgam includes a coffee shop where people can read and sip hot chocolate, just like Johnson did back in the day.
Amalgam is much more than just comics and a café. There are nightly events, including readings, workshops, signings, open mics, comedy shows, and book clubs. The program calendar at the store is already jam packed, and business is about to get even busier. Earlier this year, Amalgam was one of 33 projects chosen to win a prestigious Knight Foundation grant. The project? Creating Amalgam University.
“It’ll allow us to have dedicated, enhanced space for programming,” Johnson says about the grant. “Our hope is to create a multipurpose room and to provide affordable comic book education, including writing, penciling, coloring, and professional development, such as how to pitch comics and put together a portfolio. We’ll especially be targeting underrepresented groups, including people of color, women, and people from the LGTBQ community.”
It’s been an exceptionally busy first two years. Johnson has juggled running the shop, managing nine employees, expanding the business and programming, and fulfilling dozens of interview requests from the press. In addition to being interviewed by Glass, she has been featured in articles by NPR, The Philadelphia Inquirer, CNN, and The New York Times. One question everyone asks her is when she’s opening another store.
“I’m making sure this one’s sustainable before I think about opening a new one,” she laughs. “We’re still a very small business, so I’m watching everything that’s going out and coming in, and if I know the store’s going to be quiet, I’ll work a shift by myself. We’re expanding so fast, but when I first saw this building, I knew immediately I wanted to turn it into an educational space. I had all these ideas, but I never dreamed we’d be able to do them so quickly.”
“And now it’s all happening.”
What Ariell’s Reading
Godshaper, by Simon Spurrier and Jonas Goonface
“It takes place in a world where the rules that govern science and technology stop working, so there are no modern conveniences. Instead, everyone has their own personal god that fulfills what technology used to. The class of people capable of shaping gods are godless themselves, and live as vagabonds, so there are interesting parallels with current events, mainly discussions about immigrant workers.”
Frostbite, by Joshua Williamson and Jason Shawn Alexander
“It’s a post-apocalyptic world where scientists were trying to fix global warming but they messed up and froze the world. The new currency’s heat, and frostbite is this highly contagious disease where people turn to ice. To reduce chances of spreading it, they have to burn entire cities down. It’s interesting because there are still people denying climate change today, and who knows where we’ll be in 20 years.”
Learn more about Fox School undergraduate programs.
The talented, diverse, and driven Class of 2021 at the Fox School of Business are poised to become the next generation of innovators and business disruptors. They arrive highly-accomplished and are excited to hone their skills with the help of our top-tier faculty, market-driven curriculum, and professional development opportunities.
In fall 2017, the Fox School redesigned the Bachelor of Business Administration Core Curriculum to weave critical thinking, communication, and quantitative reasoning skills into the fabric of core business knowledge. The redesign team continues to work with students, alumni, faculty, staff, and employers to integrate these skills across the curriculum to better position Fox undergraduates for success post-graduation. These four freshmen are among the first to participate in the enhanced curriculum.
Watch the video below and read on to learn more about these four freshmen who are ready to change the world.
- Hometown: Philadelphia
- Age: 18
- Major: Business Management
- Career goals: CEO, creative director, project manager
- Hobbies: Public speaking, reading, writing
- Hidden talent: Making music, playing violin
- Hometown: Royersford, Pa.
- Age: 18
- Major: Business (declaring Accounting)
- Career goals: Grad school, then Certified Public Accountant
- Hobby: Competitive horse rider
- Hidden talents: “I can bake pretty well and I love to make handmade gifts!”
- Hometown: Havertown, Pa.
- Age: 19
- Major: Entrepreneurship, Marketing
- Career goals: Serial entrepreneur, thought leader
- Current businesses: Symbie (social networking app) and eThree (sales engagement platform)
- Claim to fame: Joined rapper Travis Scott onstage at concert and knew every word
- Hometown: Medford, N.J.
- Age: 19
- Major: Finance, Entrepreneurship
- Career goals: Wealth management sales or investment banking firm in mergers and acquisitions
- Dream: “To retire from the financial field after 15 to 20 years and work as a high school math teacher in my hometown.”
- Current business: Has run landscaping company, Robert Z Properties LLC, since freshman year of high school
- Hobby: “I love to travel. I went to Switzerland this fall and Italy this summer.”
- Hidden talents: Good cook and ping pong player
Learn more about Fox School undergraduate programs.
Imagine being thankful your husband allowed you to attend a business meeting. Many of you probably rolled your eyes, but this used to be a common occurrence. While we’ve come a long way, we still have far to go to achieve a diverse and inclusive workforce.
The good news is many women are creating their own paths through entrepreneurship.
According to the 2016 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, women comprise 40 percent of new entrepreneurs in the U.S. At the Temple University League for Entrepreneurial Women Conference, hosted by the Fox School of Business at Alter Hall, we learned that many of today’s female executives are building diverse and inclusive organizations.
The League, which holds an annual conference, is an advocacy initiative that addresses the growing challenges and interests of entrepreneurial women in the Greater Philadelphia region. It was co-founded by Dr. Elizabeth Barber, associate dean of Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management, and Betsy Leebron Tutelman, senior vice provost for strategic communications. The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI), under the leadership of Ellen Weber, executive director, co-hosts the event.
Fox Focus spoke to two of the conference speakers. Here is the advice Judith von Seldeneck, founder and chairman of Diversified Search, and Allison Francis Barksdale, EMBA ’00, CEO of RISE Leadership, have to offer women who want to start their own companies.
What advice do you have for women starting their own business?
Judith von Seldeneck: Have a good idea for your business. Something that fills a viable, current need. Take it slow, one step at a time. Stay in control of it. Be wary of partners or owners. There’s time for that down the road. Do the work yourself. No delegating early on; hire others to work for you when you can afford it. Have someone you trust who has no interest in the business but who is smart, good at things you aren’t, who you can learn from. You must learn it somehow early on if you don’t have it.
“I know that the inclusion of additional voices—diversity—will lead to better decision making in our global economy.” – Allison Francis Barksdale
Allison Francis Barksdale: I thought I had to do it all on my own. It is so much easier now that I am willing to seek help and follow the examples of others who are experts in areas where I am not. It isn’t always necessary to reinvent the wheel. You can find mentors and other resources. Take advantage of all that is available. You can learn from things on social media (such as LinkedIn), your alumni association (such as the Temple Women’s Network), and lots of other opportunities.
We’ve seen some inspiring stats about women in business. How do you feel the world has changed for women over the last few decades?
JVS: When I started, I was almost a unicorn, constantly dealing with men, competing with men, which I actually enjoyed being the only woman. Now I am surrounded by strong, successful, younger, executive women, and there is indeed encouraging news for women in business: over the last decade, the number of women-owned firms increased 45 percent, compared to just 9 percent for the national average. Female ownership of businesses is up almost 10 percent over the last decade. But there is also one big, troubling statistic to go with all of that cheery news: Women start 38 percent of new businesses, but still only receive between 2 and 6 percent of all venture capital funding. That’s an issue because it tells me that banks and venture capitalists still do not see women as solid leaders and their businesses as solid investments. There is more work to be done, especially on the VC side of the ledger.
However, I believe the momentum for women has turned a corner very recently and we are much more integrated, respected, capable, savvy, and confident as people, not just women, in our abilities to succeed in building and growing businesses! Today, we have great successful women role models like never before. Plus, women now want to generally help each other be successful.
“I can’t think of a better career path for women than owning your own business.” – Judith von Seldeneck
AFB: We have made great progress! The biggest change I see is that women are leading as they are. When I was coming into the workforce in the late 1980’s, women wore bowties and power suits and acted like men. Today, women are leading with feminine power. I am a big proponent of authenticity. My company, RISE Leadership, helps women build their impact and income through authentic leadership. To be the best speaker, leader, or anything, you have to be yourself. You can’t be anyone else better than you can be yourself. That’s what truly creates connection and power.
How should companies respond to this change to cultivate more diverse and inclusive staffs?
JVS: Any company that wants to develop a diverse and inclusive staff has to make that commitment from the top: at the board level, at the CEO level. If there are not clear and strong mandates from leadership to install mechanisms and performance metrics to produce a more inclusive workforce, particularly at the C-Suite level, it’s all lip service. It doesn’t happen organically. It happens when people in power make a conscious decision to open their doors wider, and implement policies and procedures that are fair and direct and will produce that result. How are you scouting for new talent—and where are you looking? You cannot tap new talent streams if you are only going to look in the same places you have been looking for the past 30 years. You should also hire Diversified Search to help find great talent!
At the conference, you said your path has been like the Game of Life. Can you translate your experience into advice for future generations of women in business?
AFB: My entrepreneurial journey was not a straight path to success. The first business I started failed. I opened a flower and tea shop in 2005, which could not weather the economic downturn in 2007. People were losing their homes, so they were not buying a lot of small luxuries. As in life, things don’t always go as planned. There is an element of chance. If you take a look at the board in the Game of Life, the roads have lots of curves, twists, and turns that you cannot always anticipate.
As for advice, I learned to never stop believing in myself. Above all else, you cannot give up on you! Deciding to take an entrepreneurial path will push you to grow in ways that you never anticipated. If you stay focused on success, there may come a time when you have to say to yourself, “Okay I am not letting this defeat me. Where’s the good in this, the lesson that I can learn and move on?”
You have to be willing to see your vision of success differently than how you planned it. Rather than going into business to do and make money, focus more on serving and solving problems that you are designed to solve best. Enjoy the day-to-day and not just the final outcome of your future success. Whatever happens along the way, good or bad, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow, personally and professionally.
What will the future hold for women in entrepreneurship and business?
JVS: I can’t think of a better career path for women than owning your own business. The future is bright and getting brighter. There are now 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., employing nearly 9 million people and generating over $1.6 trillion in revenues. Those kinds of statistics would have been an unthinkable pipedream 40 years ago. Time heals many misevents. Sometimes it takes longer than we would like. Technology is leveling and normalizing the playing field everywhere and disrupting long-established traditional practices in one fell swoop. I think there is a tremendous benefit for women in business in this explosive transformational environment that is happening so quickly. We need to be riding this tidal wave that is disrupting business everywhere.
“Deciding to take an entrepreneurial path will push you to grow in ways you never anticipated.” – Allison Francis Barksdale
AFB: There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Generally, a company will take on the values of its leaders, especially in the case of entrepreneurs. As in my case, authenticity and speaking up are personal as well as organizational values. It’s exciting to see how more and more women are igniting their power and speaking up. Women are leading in various ways—in small businesses, corporations, politics, and nonprofits (I prefer the term for-purpose). Even though we still have quite a ways to go, especially in corporate and board leadership, I know that the inclusion of additional voices—diversity—will lead to better decision making in our global economy. Women will play a key role in building a more inclusive, cooperative, and optimally functioning workforce. I plan to do my part to make this happen.
To continue the dialogue on women in business and leadership, feel free to contact Allison: Allison@ImpactwithRISE.com
The Future of Business is Female
The following Temple students and alumnae pitched their companies at the conference:
- Jess Rothstein, Fox MBA, Class of 2018, Play Bucket, playbucketapp.com
- Emily Knight, Engineering major, Class of 2018, Prohibere, biomaterix.com
- Karima Roepel, MTHM ’06, Ambrosia Food Group, ambrosiafoodgroup.com
The Fox School of Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) proactively promotes entrepreneurial spirit throughout all 17 schools and colleges at Temple University. IEI offers many years of experience in business development and consulting, a wide variety of skills, extensive networks, and boundless enthusiasm for new ventures and experiential learning.
Eleven alumni leaders share insights on how technology is shaking up today’s major industries and constantly reshaping business possibility.
You can’t open a magazine, a newspaper, or Twitter now without encountering a story about the rise of artificial intelligence and how this will impact businesses and economies around the world. Will the robots displace workers, leaving behind a massive trail of catastrophic unemployment? Or will the relationship be more harmonious as robots optimize productivity and maximize efficiency boosting both the bottom line and free time for us humans? Nobody knows. But one thing is for certain: Technology has brought and will continue to bring radical changes and thrilling opportunities for business innovation industry-wide. To get a firmer grasp on how some of the major industries and fields of business are positioning themselves for the future, we asked 11 Fox School of Business alumni leaders—representing a variety of industries from finance and professional sports, to transportation and healthcare—to examine what’s on the horizon and to share their insights.
James Poyser, BBA ’92
Grammy Award-winning musician, The Roots
“Advances in technology have totally changed how music is made, performed, taught, marketed, and sold. Hit records are not only made in studios anymore, but in bedrooms, basements, and even on smartphones. Traditional instruments are being replaced with digital ones (check out a Stro Elliot video on YouTube). Artists are foregoing the traditional route of signing to record labels, and putting their music out online or finding other ways to collect payment. And more changes are coming, too. The rules keep changing and evolving. What new advances are in the future? I know they’re coming. How will we create music in the future? How will we listen to music in the future? How will we purchase music? Actually, will music even be purchased anymore? (This is when it gets scary: Do I matter anymore? Is there any value left in music?) Whatever changes take place, I believe those that adapt to the changes, keep their heads on a swivel, or have the mindset to change, will be positively affected.”
Eric Salfi, BBA ’91
CPA, Partner, Cwienkala & Salfi
“Many CPAs didn’t know how to deal with QuickBooks when it was first released and it put them out of business—the advances in technology and the way accounting is done now has changed even more dramatically since. We’re moving toward strictly cloud-based activities where there’s more interaction and my clients send documents and information through a portal. The accountant’s role has evolved, too. It used to be about bookkeeping—handling bank statements, creating financial reports, and so on. QuickBooks, and now cloud software, eliminated all the people sitting in a room somewhere compiling this information, but it still requires an expert to manage the software. The accountant has evolved and, for me, it’s more of a business consultant role now. Clients don’t just need me to prepare a tax return; I now have deeper relationships with my clients and I act as a personal advisor, helping them value new businesses or solve cash flow problems. One of the big issues, as information’s moved to the cloud, is cybersecurity. There’s more data accessible now, so creating a safe, encrypted portal that allows clients to interact with us is essential. You need to adjust and adapt with technology or you’ll be left behind. I look forward to embracing whatever changes come next.”
Adam Lyons, BBA ’09
Founder & Chairman, The Zebra
“Technology has changed and is changing insurance, though no one would hesitate to admit the industry was painfully slow to welcome the insurtech revolution. At the Zebra, we’re a technology company in the insurance space, and we believe the right technology, applied by people who truly understand the profound complexities of the insurance industry, can create efficiencies which simplify everything from assessing risk to distribution to claims management and beyond. We’ve seen incredible developments in the property and casualty insurance industry, like peer-to-peer insurance and pay-per-mile models, and we’re creating an insurance search engine where consumers can access, understand, and use all of these innovations. We’re creating essential technology which informs and educates consumers so they can understand their options and make the right decisions for their unique needs. Environmental factors are critical as well, but they’re unpredictable. Still, we’ve seen trends showing an increase in devastating storms, most recently Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, for example, which just reaffirms the need for people to have the resources to find the right coverage for their circumstances to protect themselves.”
Bob Rosenthal, BBA ’85
Partner, Envision Land Use
“Real estate, like everything, is in the middle of the internet revolution. Philadelphia was dead 20 years ago, back when I went to Temple. There was a void between City Hall and the suburbs—then the millennials came. The parts that have grown, like Fishtown, used to be manufacturing areas, and the buildings have now been repurposed. Everyone talks about the retail change and how people now buy online, but the same has happened in everything from healthcare to office space. What once was a retail center is no longer a retail center; this battle’s been going on for years in the city and is now hitting the suburbs. I’m 57 and right now I’m working from my car on an iPhone. People don’t need office space the way they did—with a lobby, a huge campus, and a front desk—especially younger people without ties to old ways of doing business. And when the millennials come back to the suburbs—which they’re already starting to do—they want lifestyle options just as they do in the city. They want to be able to easily Uber or walk to a bar or a restaurant. So even in new developments in the suburbs, we’re aiming to make these changes. With more businesses moving online and changing needs, land uses change so quickly that governing authorities can’t keep up and many aren’t willing to change. People are always frightened of change, but we must keep moving forward and adapting.”
Heather Qader, MBA ’16
Manager of Business Development, City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce
“Technology is slowly changing local government for the better. Philadelphia, like other cities, is realizing that to compete at a global and national scale, it must adapt its infrastructure. These adaptations look like the digitization of SEPTA’s ticketing system, installation of Indego Bike Share citywide, parking kiosks that allow the use of cards instead of change, and an overhaul of the City of Philadelphia website to create a more user-friendly interface and allowing for more public engagement and user ease. With every new administration, personnel changes occur and there is a transitional period required to get new personnel up to speed. One initiative that has survived the Michael Nutter administration and is currently embraced by the Jim Kenney administration is StartupPHL, a platform that funds worthy initiatives and connects startups to resources in the Philadelphia tech ecosystem. The most recent StartupPHL call for ideas round funded five organizations with $100,000 to train instructors, supply equipment, and teach children the technology skills that they need to be globally competitive. We are keeping up—not as fast as many of the lean startups here in Philadelphia—but progress is being made.”
Salvatore DeTrane, BBA ’93
Managing Director, Empactful Capital LLC
“Most innovation in healthcare technologies in recent decades has been in medical devices, drug therapies, and medical diagnostics. These have led to people living longer, more productive lives. The downside is these advancements have resulted in a financially unsustainable cost trend. The next frontier is entrepreneurs disrupting healthcare with innovative information technology solutions. There have been massive investments in the last 15 years in electronic health records, claims systems, genomics, social determinant data, and big data software. Some of the innovation opportunities include practical applications of machine learning, natural language processing, intelligent workflow advancements, and advanced analytics that offer actionable insights. Proactive interventions will enable healthcare providers and payers to better manage care, reduce healthcare costs, improve quality, and assess risk of managing populations and encourage business model evolution. With the expected increase of today’s industry expenditures in the U.S. from $3.5 to $5.5 trillion by 2025, this transformation will prevent a financial crisis. All payers—whether health plans, employers, or consumers—are demanding more efficient and effective healthcare and transparency. The industry now stands at a pivotal moment. It must transform into a system that leverages these data/IT investments to support better, more informed decisions by each major constituent. And I think Temple, given Fox’s programs and its health system and medical school, is positioned to support the innovation required to transform our healthcare system.”
Joe Heller, BS ’05
Vice President of Marketing, Philadelphia Flyers
“Broadcast coverage of live sports events continues to evolve and advance at a rapid rate. Viewers are getting more access to their favorite teams and players through virtual and augmented reality, cable cams, and GoPro cameras. In the future, I wouldn’t be surprised to see dedicated channels allowing viewers to experience the duration of a live game straight from a players helmet through a virtual reality headset. This could be similar to the way motorsports has cameras mounted on cars, or the NHL on referees and players at the All-Star Game. Stadiums and arenas will be continually challenged on new ways to adopt VR/AR into their venues, improve WiFi, provide charging stations in the seats, show live video helmet feeds on the big screens, and alike, to bring the comforts and expectations of home viewing to the game. From an NHL team perspective, the Flyers recognize we’re becoming our own media company by placing a greater emphasis on content about the team, connecting players and fans through mobile platforms, providing behind the scenes access, and much more. As tech advancements are made, pro sports will continue to look for new ways to be early adopters and integrate them into event coverage, for home viewers and in arenas and stadiums.”
Marco Herbas, MBA ’15
Whole Securitization Funding, Ford Motor Company
“Self-driving cars are an inevitable reality that will disrupt and transform the industry for its incumbents as it opens new doors for non-traditional, automotive value-chain players able to purvey hardware and software that enable interconnected and autonomous vehicles (AVs). AVs, along with mobility and continuous development of electrified powertrains, are creating a paradigm shift in the lengthy, bureaucratic processes engrained in traditional automakers’ decision-making, essentially forcing them to become more agile in their product and systems development lifecycles to emulate these potential tech entrants. The notion of AVs is not only disrupting the auto industry, but the transportation ecosystem as a whole. Some examples may include public transportation, where cities may have to partner with automobile purveyors to deploy fleets of self-driving vehicles, as well as insurance providers where AVs create a safer commuter environment, meanwhile curtailing risk and impacting insurers’ revenue streams. Ford has communicated it intends to pursue automotive and high-growth mobility businesses. In 2016, senior leadership announced the company would commence mass production of level-4 autonomous vehicles by 2021 available for ride-sharing/ride-hailing services. Key underpinnings include the launch of the next generation Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Development Vehicle, the creation of its mobility division, as well as its acquisition of Chariot, an app-based, on-demand shuttle service. And Ford is investing $1 billion in start-up Argo AI to further its advancement in AV development by leveraging the startup’s robotics technology.”
Andrew Bertolazzi, EMBA ’97
Vice President, Ronin Security Solutions LLC
“Seaborne shipping accounts for approximately two-thirds of global trade, with over $4 trillion worth of goods transported annually. One of the major challenges the industry faces—increased global competitiveness, new regulations, reliance on automation, etc.—is security. This includes compliance with layers of domestic and global requirements, physical security, and protection of the supply chain. But the most insidious risk with the potentially greatest impact is cybersecurity. The industry, both afloat and on land, is increasing the level of automation across the value chain to improve efficiencies, reduce cycle times, enhance safety, and drive down cost. The greater use of technology leads to the need for increased knowledge and specialized tools, as well as the risk of breaches and compromises. A recent example of cybercrime’s impact on global shipping is the Petya ransomware attack, whose disruptions cost over $300M to one of the world’s major shipping companies. The federal government and industry associations are working to raise awareness and offer assistance to organizations across the supply chain through focused outreach, education, and grants. And the private sector is improving cybersecurity through assessments, training, and adding specialized security tools, processes, people, and consulting support. Each organization must evaluate the amount of resources of time, people, and funding needed to appropriately address the threats. The level to which they’re able to do so will determine the impacts and stimulate innovations in technology, business processes, and approaches to security.”
Ron Iller, BBA ’93, MBA ’95
Director at Large, Fox Alumni Association
Director, Product Management-Analytics and Data Discovery, Change Healthcare
“The move to value-based care and risk-based contracting within the healthcare market has changed the game. It’s about providers and payers applying data and analytics to effectively provide better care at the lowest cost. Overall, it will be a very positive change in terms of working to improve outcomes. The focus will be on the individual and patient populations, and how their level of health impacts the cost of the system. Organizations will focus more on keeping people healthy as opposed to getting them healthy by utilizing care management programs and other forms of outreach. Change Healthcare will inspire a better healthcare system and deliver wide-range financial, operational, and clinical solutions to payers, providers, and consumers. I’m focused on helping hospitals and health systems move from fee-for-service to a value- or risk-based payment model. This involves taking a broader view of the patient or population, either in terms of payment, health status, or access to care, not only within the walls of the hospital, but extending to the broader community. We do this by providing a data platform for health systems to acquire and aggregate massive amounts of data at scale and then applying analytics in the transition to value-based care. The data we gather and what we can do with it will continue to improve with new technology, and ultimately allow us to improve the quality of care we provide even more.”
James Sanders, EMBA ’12
President-elect, Fox Alumni Association
Vice President, Commercial Lending, Customers Bank
“Fintech is providing access to capital, especially to small businesses, at a right-now rate. People are getting loans on mobile devices and it happens quick. Mobile and cloud technology, whether people use it to bid on contracts or communicate with employees, is helping small businesses evolve faster. It used to be more difficult to start a small business; now there are infinite online resources people can tap into. You can watch a YouTube video that will tell you how to do it (but, keep in mind, that won’t help you when it comes to actually executing a successful business). Small business owners are getting younger, too. There’s a lot of buzz around millennials and how they have a fresh way of thinking and handling business. With platforms like Etsy, eBay, Amazon, and Instagram, there are many ways to make money. My son started a tech company; he designed the app and everything. I’m very optimistic about the future of small and medium sized businesses—they’re the backbone of America. Their names aren’t plastered on the highways when you’re driving downtown and you may not see them on TV or the internet. But they’re everywhere and they’re creating and driving new industries and opportunities.”
When it comes to reducing instances of lethal force exhibited by police, a recent study by Fox School of Business researchers suggests that wearable video cameras might not be the solution.
The researchers found that the use of analytics and smartphones to access intelligence, like criminal history reports, reduced instances of lethal force by police, while wearable video cameras were linked to increases in shooting deaths of civilians by police.
Dr. Min-Seok Pang and Dr. Paul A. Pavlou, from the Fox School of Business, utilized data from a comprehensive report by the Washington Post, to investigate how technology affects police performance and practice. The newspaper’s 2015 database compiled information from the 986 deadly shootings of civilians by police nationwide in 2015, from published news reports, public records, Internet databases, and original reporting.
Their study, titled “Armed with Technology: The Effects on Fatal Shootings of Civilians by the Police,” found that the use of body cameras by police led to a 3.64-percent increase in shooting deaths of civilians by police. Notably, body cameras produced a 3.75-percent increase in the shooting deaths of African Americans and Hispanics, but only a 0.67-percent increase in the deaths of Caucasians and Asians.
Meanwhile, instances of fatal shootings dropped by 2.5 percent when police departments conducted statistical analyses of digitized crime data or had real-time access to data via smartphones and information about a person of interest, the researchers found.
“Our findings suggest that body cameras generate less reluctance for police officers to use lethal force, because the wearable body cameras provide evidence that may justify the shooting and exonerate an officer from prosecution,” said Pavlou, the Fox School’s Milton F. Stauffer Professor of Information Technology and Strategy. “Instead, the use of data analytics and smartphones can reduce the use of lethal force by police.”
A team of students from the Fox School of Business put together the pieces to win a national case competition.
The students won the Spencer-RIMS Risk Management Challenge, a three-month case study from a major company – iconic toymaker, LEGO. The competition culminated with eight teams delivering presentations during the RIMS 2016 Annual Conference and Exhibition, held April 10-14 in San Diego, Calif.
This marked the third win in five years for students from the Fox School’s nationally ranked Risk, Insurance, and Healthcare Management department. Senior Actuarial Science majors Carolyn Murset and Zilong Zhao, and Risk Management and Insurance majors Andrew Donchez and Sean Preis, a senior and a junior, respectively, comprised the winning team, which received $4,000 in prize earnings.
The Spencer-RIMS Risk Management Challenge tasks undergraduates from around the country with developing a comprehensive, written risk analysis that will be judged by a panel of experts at the annual risk management society’s conference.
“Temple’s Risk Management and Insurance program has helped us to hone our analytical and critical-thinking skills, and adequately prepared us to identify the main risks facing LEGO,” Donchez said. “Meeting LEGO’s strategic risk manager and picking his brain taught us that risk management is a real-world issue that demands passionate, curious and persistent practitioners.”
“Winning the competition is an extraordinary closing on the last chapter of my Temple journey,” Zhao said. “It signifies the high caliber of future business leaders Fox School has nurtured.”
Walter Douglass and his son, Keith, took different routes to the Fox School of Business. But at commencement, they walked together. The father and son sat beside one another May 6 at the Liacouras Center, and had their names and degrees announced simultaneously during the Fox School’s commencement ceremony.
Walter, who in 2009 opened a tax-preparation service, received a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Keith, 23, earned his Bachelor’s in Finance.
Walter, 50, balanced academic, professional, and familial responsibilities as “the most non-traditional student you’ll ever find,” he said. Walter has spent more than 30 years driving tractor-trailers, making nightly runs to Connecticut and returning to the family’s home in Schwenksville, Pa., in the mid-morning hours. At points of his undergraduate career, Walter would finish his day’s work and head directly to Main Campus. More recently, he would log a few hours of sleep before attending a late-afternoon class.
“There were times when I’d have two courses per semester,” Walter said, “but mostly, I would tell myself, ‘Let’s just take it one course at a time.’”
Walter began his pursuit of a college degree in 2001, first earning his associate’s degree at a community college before transferring to Temple. He’s been completing coursework ever since, except for an 18-month sabbatical while he received chemotherapy to treat Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Keith, 23, completed 18 credits of coursework in the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 semesters in order to ensure he would walk with his father at commencement.
“When I looked at my schedule (last year), I thought, ‘I have to push myself. I owe that much to my father.’ He’s the hardest-working man I’ve ever known,” Keith said. “That was my motivation to get through it. I kept thinking, ‘This man has been through everything. I don’t have any excuses.’”
Temple University’s Fox School of Business honored Gerard H. “Jerry” Sweeney as the recipient of the 2016 Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership – the school’s highest honor, for outstanding achievement, leadership, and commitment to the community by a distinguished member of industry.
Sweeney was honored at the 20th annual Musser Award reception and dinner, held Nov. 17 in Mitten Hall, on Temple University’s Main Campus.
Sweeney is President, Chief Executive Officer, and Trustee of Brandywine Realty Trust, which develops, builds, and manages the nation’s leading Class A office and mixed-use properties. He has held these roles since the company’s founding in 1994. He has overseen the growth of Brandywine, from four properties and a total market capitalization of less than $5 million to more than 33 million square feet and a total market capitalization of close to $5 billion.
“Jerry Sweeney has overseen Brandywine Realty Trust from its infancy through to today. He is directly responsible for helping the company flourish into a leader in the real estate industry,” said Dr. M. Moshe Porat, Dean of the Fox School of Business. “This year marks an anniversary. For two decades, we have honored distinguished business professionals with the Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership, and Jerry certainly fits that description.”
Entrepreneurs piled into Alter Hall clinging more than posterboards and presentation materials. They also brought dreams of success and self-employment.
The Fox School of Business hosted casting associates from the hit ABC show “Shark Tank,” which features self-made millionaires who award mentorship and financial support to budding entrepreneurs in exchange for equity stake in their businesses. More than 170 Temple students, alumni, faculty, and staff applied in the hope that their June 11 pitches would result in selection to appear on a future episode of the show.
“I walked in the room to make my presentation, and I immediately felt so nervous,” said Fox Part-Time MBA student Vinti Singh, who pitched a standing CT scanner for horses that wouldn’t require anesthetization. “I can only wonder what it’s like to deliver a pitch in front of the actual sharks.”
Casting associates listened to 60-second presentations inside the Steven H. Korman Conference Room, with two Temple entrepreneurs having to deliver their pitches simultaneously and side by side. The associates asked entrepreneurs to reveal both the monetary value they would ask of the Sharks, and to name the Shark with whom they most strongly identified.
Caren Sachs, an associate for the show, told applicants prior to their casting calls that “personality is just as important as your pitch.” She emphasized that “Shark Tank” seeks entrepreneurs who can speak energetically about their businesses, products, and concepts.
Alter Hall’s Undergraduate Commons served as the waiting room for Temple entrepreneurs before their number had been called. Applicants paced the room, rehearsing their talking points and working through their demonstrations.
Brandon Study, a Fox School senior majoring in Entrepreneurship, said he felt confident while making his pitch. Temple University “prepares you for moments like this,” he said. “That training is what helps you thrive in crunch-time situations.”
Dr. Mitrabarun “MB” Sarkar, a renowned educator and researcher at Temple University’s Fox School of Business whose pedagogical work garnered national, international, and university awards, died June 7, 2016. He was 54.
Sarkar, who joined the Fox School faculty in 2008, was the H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation within the Strategic Management department at Fox. He also had served as a visiting professor of strategy at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
“MB was an innovator at every stage of his career,” said Dr. M. Moshe Porat, Dean of the Fox School of Business. “His passion for teaching and empowering students, and his thirst for knowledge were tremendous. MB’s passing brings great sadness to our Temple and Fox communities. My thoughts and prayers at this time are with his wife, their two daughters, and his family and close friends.”
In 2013, Sarkar received Temple University’s Great Teacher Award, the highest honor conferred by the university on faculty. On seven occasions, he was named Outstanding Professor of the Year in Fox’s Global, Executive, Online, and Part-Time MBA programs. Sarkar also was a five-time recipient of Fox’s Crystal Teaching Award. Last November, he received the Musser Award for Excellence in Teaching, which recognizes a Fox School faculty member who challenges students to think imaginatively and creatively.
Sarkar was the founding Academic Director of Fox’s Global Immersion Program in Emerging Markets, and led the initiative of building partnerships and experiential programs for Fox MBA students in several countries, such as Chile, China, Colombia, Ghana, India, Israel, Morocco, South Africa, and Turkey.
Temple University’s Fox School of Business has entered a three-year partnership with Flinders University to deliver its nationally ranked entrepreneurship programs to the prestigious Australian university.
The Fox School of Business will help Flinders University drive South Australia’s economic transformation by training thousands of undergraduate and graduate students annually in the entrepreneurial mindset and skills required to start new businesses and facilitate innovation in existing industries.
This partnership, announced in August, leverages Fox’s reputation as a leading provider of online and entrepreneurship education. In January 2016, the Fox Online MBA program earned a No. 1 national ranking from U.S. News & World Report for the second consecutive year. And in November 2015, Fox’s undergraduate- and graduate-level Entrepreneurship programs earned top-10 rankings from The Princeton Review and Entrepreneurship magazine. It also leverages the Fox School’s extensive experience in supporting entrepreneurship-based economic development in the Philadelphia region, largely through the 350 projects completed by its renowned Fox Management Consulting program.
Flinders University, through its New Venture Institute (NVI), is creating entrepreneurial opportunities for its 26,000 students. Since its founding in 2013, the NVI has overseen 252 student projects and 136 start-ups, trained nearly 1,500 individuals, and generated more than $540,000 in investments.
BBA ’92, LAW ’99 | Co-owner and Director of Business Affairs, Axis Music Group
Appreciating his roots: “I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles and New York for work, and my wife (Angela) and I like to travel, but there’s nothing like Philadelphia. We enjoy dining in the city, walking and biking on the river and visiting the museums. And I’m constantly inspired by the new development in Northern Liberties, Center City and Powelton Village, where we live.”
At any given time, Chauncey Childs has five or six projects – maybe more – going simultaneously. And he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“This is exactly how I envisioned my career playing out,” said Childs, the co-founder and director of business affairs for the Philadelphia-based Axis Music Group. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Childs is the business arm of Axis’ operations. He’s tasked with negotiating contracts, drafting agreements, managing budgets, and collecting royalties for Axis, which oversees a host of music artists, songwriters, and producers. Childs doubles as the business manager for James Poyser, BBA ’94, who he first met during their undergraduate careers at the Fox School of Business.
The two crossed paths in a finance class at Temple University, and then again years later in a recording studio at A Touch of Jazz, a Philadelphia music production company. They decided to go into business together, and Axis was born. Today, their company’s operations are two-pronged: Axis writers and producers craft original songs for established artists, and they also write original songs for film, television, and TV commercials.
“When a TV show or movie is transitioning from one scene to the next, someone writes that musical segue. That someone is Axis,” said Childs, explaining one of Axis’ functions. “When we first got started, we used to hustle to get work. And now, after we’ve been at it for 20 years, we still have to hustle, but we also get contract work on the profile of what we’ve already accomplished. We’ve come a long way.”
Childs’ interest in music, and his desire to represent the industry’s top talent, dates to his days at Temple. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Business Management from the Fox School, and later his Juris Doctorate from Temple’s Beasley School of Law, to turn that dream into a reality.
“Temple gave me the confidence I needed in order to start my own business,” said Childs, 45, a Philadelphia native. “Both of my degrees provided me with the toolkit that I needed to hit the real world and say, ‘I can be an entrepreneur.’”
Childs’ work, at times, seems never-ending. A written agreement is required every time an original piece of music is penned. The volume of contracts, he said, can be extensive. But he’s also overseen much-larger contractual agreements. Notably, Childs negotiated a label imprint deal with Sony Music, aligning Axis with the international music giant allowed Axis the opportunity to market and distribute their Artist’s music through Sony globally.
“That was a milestone moment for me,” Childs said.
The contracts pay the bills. What’s most rewarding, he said, is Axis’ commitment to developing young talent.
Franklin Walker, a percussionist at Poyser’s church, came on board as an understudy to Poyser. Walker, a self-taught drummer, wound up on tour with rapper D’Angelo and presently performs with Poyser five nights a week on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” for which their band, The Roots, serves as the house band.
Childs said he met another young man, Aaron Draper, at a high school career fair at which he was speaking. Draper, rather than speaking of his interest in attending college, kept reiterating a desire to drum professionally. On the spot, Childs invited Draper to Axis’ studio, believing he could benefit from exposure to talent, top equipment, and studio time. Draper is currently on an international tour with pop-soul singer Adele.
“We’ve been able to take the next generation of musicians, mentor them, and, based on our relationships in the business, give them opportunities to carve out careers for themselves,” Childs said. “I’ve got to say – it’s some of the most-rewarding work we do.”
It doesn’t hurt that stars like Erykah Badu keep Childs’ number in their smartphone contacts.
“It’s an unwritten rule that James will work on all of my albums,” Badu said, “but I don’t step into the studio until Chauncey and Ward White (Badu’s representation) have worked out the details.”
Said Childs: “James and I have put in a lot of work over the years to get Axis to where it is today, and it’s been worth it. Every step has been worth it.”
Growing up in Laceyville, Pa., a town of less than 400 people, Meredith Sadlowski was eager to experience life in a city. After graduating from high school in 1999, Sadlowski left behind the town she loved and moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
Fast-forward to today and Sadlowski is Senior Vice President of Branded Sales and Marketing for Gulf Oil in Wellesley Hills, Mass. Sadlowski has worked for Gulf Oil, one of the fastest-growing branded fuel marketers in the U.S., which owns and operates one of the largest refined products terminaling networks in the northeast, since 2007.
“In my current role, I work alongside our executive leadership team on the development and the execution of a branded sales plan that supports business growth and enhances brand awareness of the iconic Gulf brand,” said Sadlowski, BBA ’03, who earned a degree in Economics.
During her nearly 10-year career with Gulf Oil, Sadlowski has also served as Vice President of Branded Contract Sales Operations, Director of Branded Contract Sales, and Branded Territory Manager. Sadlowski’s roles evolved from sales and customer specific in her early years with Gulf, to more leadership and tactical strategy-focused in her most recent position.
“Our goal at Gulf is to be the best supply and brand partner for our customers in the marketplace. In order to be the best, you must have a keen understanding of the customers’ specific market conditions, so you can provide solutions that balance both the needs of the customer and Gulf,” Sadlowski said. “Therefore, much of my time is spent evaluating each market, and of course, ensuring our team is focused and delivering innovative, competitive offerings to existing customers and new prospects to ensure business growth.”
Many of the business skills Sadlowski learned in her courses at the Fox School assist her on a daily basis including economic modeling to evaluate financials, sales forecasting, strategic planning, and management.
Prior to joining Gulf Oil, Sadlowski spent four years after college working as Director of Marketing and Sales for Pro Sign Company. Thanks to a connection from her brother, Sadlowski was hired and helped the company roll out its marketing plan.
During college, Sadlowski also gained professional experience as an Operations Manager for venture capitalist, Michael Karp. Working full-time as a junior and senior, Sadlowski earned exposure to a variety of sectors such as, telecommunications, real estate, and charter schools. She predominately assisted with the administration side of the charter schools. Temple’s flexible schedules and various campuses helped Sadlowski manage full-time work en route to graduating in four years.
The Fox School also offered career-shaping moments for Sadlowski, who attended sessions that welcomed business executives to speak about their careers and experiences. In particular, a session with a female executive at Target stood out to her.
“That was a pivotal moment for me sitting in that lecture, watching her, and being exposed to someone that has been successful in business,” Sadlowski explained. “I remember thinking that she represented exactly what I wanted for myself and my ultimate career path. It is key for students to have access to people out in the workforce who can inspire and mentor them. That experience helped define the next phases of my education and career.”
As Sadlowski reflected on her overall experience at Temple, she remembered the original transition to college life being difficult as she adjusted to a large campus and city. Although after the first semester, everything changed and Temple was home, she said.
“And every career move has been the same feeling. You go into it and you’re not quite sure and there are times that you want to give up, but you don’t and you actually work harder than before, keep going and keep pushing forward,” Sadlowski added. “And when you succeed at it, that power, that feeling just for yourself is something that you can’t get from anything else. Temple was the start of that for my life and me.”